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Caernarfon: the Grand Tour

Walk around the castle, the narrow streets and Roman Segontium.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty F (wear your shoes)

Paths Old railway trackbed, lanes and streets

Landscape Town

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 263 Anglesey East

Start/finish SH 480633

Dog friendliness No restrictions except traffic

Parking Large car park between Victoria Docks and Safeway's, north east side of town

Public toilets At car park

1 The route begins from the south west of the car park along the pathway by Victoria Docks, now a marina. The waters beyond are the Menai Straits and the flat green fields of the other shores are those of the Isle of Anglesey. Beyond the docks follow the promenade along the outside of the town walls, where the twin-towered gate, known as Porth-yr-Aur, the Golden Gate, has a plaque to Lionel Brabazon-Rees, who sailed to Miami single-handed in 1933.

2 Continuing along the promenade you come to the north end of Caernarfon Castle, which we'll see more of later, and an old swing bridge across the Afon Seiont, the Saint River. Cross the bridge and turn left down the lane for a view of the castle and the Victorian riverside terraces. The lane winds past parkland, a campsite and into the country for a short while, but soon returns to the riverside to meet the A487, close to is junction with another minor road.

3 Cross the main road then go over the old bridge across the Seiont, now reserved for foot traffic. The old road passes beneath the new and you turn left off it, on to a path descending to the Welsh Highland Railway and the cycle track that runs alongside it. Follow the latter back towards the town centre, then go across the footbridge at Caernarfon Station. Go down the street opposite (it has no street name sign). This comes back to the A487 which you cross using an underpass. Now head for Segontium, the Roman fort, and a brown road sign highlights the way up Tithebarn Street (Stryd Degium) past the Eagles pub. The fort is at the far end.

4 Retrace your steps down Tithebarn Street and under the subway. This time go past the British Legion and follow Pool Street (Stryd y Llyn) past all the shops. Cross Castle Square to reach the town walls and the castle. Go back to the town walls at the edge of the square and turn left inside them along Hole in the Wall Street. By the junction with High Street you'll see the Bell Tower over the East Gate. In times gone by these bells would sound the curfew. If the inhabitants were not inside by 8pm, they would be locked out until six in the morning.

5 Turn left along High Street, then left down Palace Street, famous at one time for its 14 taverns. Here you'll pass the Market Hall, formerly Plas Mawr. Most of the roof timber came from old ships and the association with the sea is reinforced by the use of an old ship's bell that peels the start of the day's trading.

6 Turn right along Castle Ditch which runs alongside the castle and past the tourist information centre. It comes to imposing 19th-century County Hall. Turn right by the side of the hall and adjoining gaol, to follow Shirehall Street past the modern administrative buildings. Beyond St Mary's Church, go through the gateway out to Victoria Docks where you retrace your steps to the car park.

Caernarfon Castle is the most imposing of Edward I's 'iron ring', designed to subdue the native Welsh. Begun in 1283 it was to become a Royal palace, and as such designed to reflect its domination over the local population. It's mighty polygonal towers are remarkably intact. It seemed quite fitting when in 1969 it became the setting for Prince Charles' investiture as Prince of Wales some 700 years after Edward made his son the first English Prince of Wales in the same place. The castle also houses the regimental Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

From an earlier era is Segontium Roman Fort. Like many Roman forts, it had defences of earth and timber, with gates and parallel streets. At the height of its importance it would have housed 1,000 troops, all non-Roman citizens, known as cohorts. One such regiment known to have served here was the First Cohort of Sunici, recruited from Germany. Coins discovered on archaeological digs show that the Romans occupied Segontium until about ad 394. Entrance to the fort is free and there's a fine museum here showing artefacts from the Roman era and interpreting what you will see. Segontium was built in ad 77, shortly after the governor of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola had conquered the Ordovices of Wales.

Where to eat and drink

The Black Boy Inn, Northgate Street, is a 15th-century pub with oak-beamed ceilings. They do a wide range of traditional bar meals and favourites such as a Thai green curry.

While you're there

Between May and October you could take a cruise along the Menai Straits on the Queen of the Sea or the Snowdon Queen. The booking office is on the Quayside, Slate Quay, near the castle.

What to look for

Near the end of the walk you come to St Mary's Church, founded in 1307 as a garrison church and built by Henry of Ellerton. It was almost entirely rebuilt in 1814 but some of the internal arcades remain from the earlier building, as does the Jesse Window in the southern wall.


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